LOS ANGELES – A new device resembling a gadget on Batman’s utility belt will soon be in the hands of several hundred Los Angeles police officers to help detain individuals without using force.
The tool, called the BolaWrap 100, fires a Kevlar cord that ensnares an individual’s body to restrict mobility, giving officers seconds to swarm the person without using more drastic measures such as a Taser or gun.
The handheld device, made by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies, sounds like a gun when it deploys a tether to entangle someone between 10 and 25 feet away. Barbs attached to the end of the tether grab hold of the person as it wraps around their arms or legs.
Top LAPD leaders told the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, the civilian panel that oversees the department, last week that officers will start testing the tool for free for 90 days in January. The 200 devices will be given to officers across the city once they are trained, Deputy Chief Martin Baeza, head of the personnel and training bureau, said during a discussion about next year’s budget.
“We are very excited to be piloting the BolaWrap,” Baeza said, to determine if “it meets the needs and standards that the LAPD is looking for.”
Two frequent LAPD critics who attend Police Commission meetings criticized the tool. Adam Smith, a member of Black Lives Matter, told commissioners the department would probably deploy the tool mostly in minority communities.
The BolaWrap is not something officers would use to counter suspects with firearms, but it could be used against knives or other objects, numerous police officials told The Times.
Tom Smith, president of Wrap Technologies, co-founded Taser International, now Axon Enterprises, in 1993 and served as president until October 2006. He told Reuters in September that he saw the success of the Taser as proof there was an appetite for less-lethal tools in policing.
Mike Rothans, chief operating officer at Wrap Technologies and retired assistant sheriff with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, said the barbs create a “very small puncture” when the tether wraps around a person and could cause more pain if a suspect tries to pull the cords off.
“This is a restraint device,” Rothans said. “This is meant to put time and distance between the officer.”